IAF showcases firepower in Iron Fist Exercise in Rajasthan

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Pokharan (Rajasthan), March 18 (IANS) Setting its eye on the future induction of light combat helicopter and aircraft, heavy lift choppers and an integrated air command and control system, the Indian Air Force on Friday showcased its combat and fire power at the ‘Iron Fist 2016’ exercise.

The event witnessed, among others, by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw the maiden firing of the Akash missile during a night combat demonstration, as well as firing by indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’.

The skyline at Pokharan, not far from the Pakistan border, was lit bright as choppers, fighter jets and transport aircraft displayed their day and night capability to attack and engage the enemy.

Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, called the display the “tip of the iceberg”.

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“This demonstration is the tip of an iceberg when compared to the overall capability of the air force,” Raha said on the occasion.

The air force chief said future inductions of choppers like the attack helicopter, heavy lift helicopter, Tejas, Rohini radars and Akash missile will provide “unprecedented operational capabilities” to the force.

The IAF has been troubled by ageing aircraft and chopper fleets, being at its lowest strength of 32 squadrons at present and expected to get lower as it plans to retire some of the aircraft now becoming obsolete.

While the deal for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters continues to be under negotiation with the French, the force is looking at inducting at least one squadron of Tejas, which showcased it’s firing capability on Friday for the first time in public.

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Tejas fired a laser-guided bomb and Russian R-73 missile.

An IAF spokesperson said both were successful.

Also in attendance at the event were Indian army chief General Dalbir Singh, Navy chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan, senior defence officers and defence attaches of several countries.

Pakistan and China were however left out of the list.

Raha, who is Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, also said the three armed forces were fully geared up for joint operations.

“I assure the nation’s leadership that the army, navy and the air force are fully geared up to conduct integrated operations at the tactical, operational and strategic levels,” he said.

“Future conflicts will witness extensive conduct of joint operations,” the IAF chief said.

Meanwhile, those present at the event were in for a surprise as a sonic boom welcomed them at the beginning of the exercise when a MiG-29 broke the sound barrier.

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‘Iron Fist Exercise 2016’ saw the participation of 181 aircraft, 103 of them fighter planes.

Other exercises included firing of lethal ordnance as well as combat and combat support demonstrations.

The last such exercise held in 2013 was the IAF’s first day-night exercise, in which more than 100 aircraft and 30 different weapon platforms were showcased.

The exercise is aimed at displaying network-centric operations capabilities of the Indian Air Force.

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